International Journal of Engineering and Physical Sciences 6 2012

Effect of Compression Ratio and Applied Voltage on Free-Piston Linear Generator Engine
Abdulwehab A. Ibrahim, Ezrann Zharif Zainal Abidin, A. Rashid A. Aziz, and Saiful A. Zulkifli
Abstract—This paper highlights the evolution and features of
free-piston engine and presents the experimental and simulation analysis performed on UTP free-piston linear generator engine. The effect of applied voltage during starting the engine and the compression ratio on the operation of the engine is investigated. The result showed that the higher the applied voltage used for motoring the engine, the higher the peak pressure developed in the combustion cylinder. Further, the analysis indicated that for higher applied voltage, higher compression pressure starts to occur in the early period of combustion and showed lesser combustion duration. It is investigated that higher compression ratio leads to higher engine speed, which yields higher IMEP and rate of heat release. It is concluded that maximum engine power, rate of heat release, and cumulative IMEP are produced in free-piston engine by applying higher voltage during starting and using higher compression ratio.

Keywords—Free-piston engine, Internal combustion engine, Linear generator, Hybrid electric vehicle I. INTRODUCTION HE fluctuation of energy costs and supplies and the increasing awareness of pollution made it important to develop strategies to mitigate the problems to seek alternative energy generation and utilization. Hence, more researches have been undertaken to improve the current internal combustion engine, which accounts for major pollution of the environment. The configuration of the current internal combustion engine is mainly represented by slide-crank mechanism, which restricts the motion of piston and attributed by many researchers as a drawback of the engine. However, this can be avoided by using free-piston engine, in which the engine’s pistons reciprocate linearly without the use of a crankshaft or flywheel. In essence, a free-piston engine is a machine that employs pistons which are dynamically coupled to energy storing and absorbing devices to convert thermal energy into a useful form [1]. The name “free-piston” implies that there is no physical linkage that would constrain the piston’s motion leading to the potentially valuable feature of variable stroke length and compression ratio [2]. Some researchers also describe the free-piston engine as a linear engine because the piston, the only moving part of the engine, moves linearly back and forth [3]. The objective of the study is to investigate the effect of the applied voltage and compression ratio on the operation of free-piston linear generator engine.
All Authors are with Center for Automotive Research, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Bandar Seri Iskandar, 31750 Tronoh, Perak, Malaysia (Tel: +605 368 8000; Fax: +605 365 4090); E-mail: Abdulwehab A. Ibrahim (; Ezrann Zharif Zainal Abidin (; A. Rashid A. Aziz (; Saiful A. Zulkifli (;


A. Evolution of free-piston engine The free-piston engine has gone through a long period of evolution and its concept can be traced back to James Watt’s steam engine that was patented in 1769. Before Watt’s steam engine was converted to rotary machine, it was a free-piston machine that uses gravity and power of steam to create piston’s reciprocating motion [4]. In the early age, several researchers were interested in the idea of free-piston engine in the years preceding World War II. In France, Raul Pateras Pescara started working on the free-piston engine air compressor around 1922 to use it as a compressed air supplier for helicopter propulsion units [5]. The first experimental Pescara’s air compressor was built around 1925 and was patented in 1928 [6, 7]. He was accredited for the invention of free-piston engine. Even though, his machine couldn’t be developed into a practical helicopter application, later it paves the way for the development of commercial free-piston diesel compressor system and free-piston gas generator concept. However, the development of free-piston engine gasifier abandoned in the mid-20th century due to advancement of gas turbine engine and disadvantage of free-piston engine [1, 8]. Once again, its development becomes a topic of interest in the application of hydraulic pump and linear generator. In hydraulic free-piston engine, the free-piston engine is directly coupled to a hydraulic pump compartment and an accumulator so that the chemical energy in the fuel is transformed in to hydraulic energy by means of linearly moving piston assembly. In free-piston engine linear generator, the free-piston engine is directly coupled to a linear electrical machine for electric power generation. In this paper, a free-piston linear electrical generator engine is considered in the study for the application of power generation. B. Unique features of free-piston engine The characteristics of free-piston engines differ from the traditional rotary engine mainly with the absence of crank mechanism in free-piston engine which is a good opportunity to eliminate a side load on the engine generated by crankshaft. According to Heywood, the presence of crankshaft, connecting rod and bearing accounts for the frictional losses occurring in the conventional engine [9]. Contrary to conventional engine, free-piston engine avoids these unnecessary moving parts and minimizes the frictional force. These features offer a great compactness, flexibility and high availability with low maintenance costs. Furthermore, the engine would be more quiet and vibrationless during the operation. The current engine requires torque transmission and multiplication, such as drive shaft, gearboxes and differentials, before their power


free-piston engine air compressor and free-piston gas generator. gas-generatorturbine plant thermodynamic characteristics and piston geometrical and dynamical characteristics [30]. affinity relations were employed to scale up or down the unit design. researchers at UTP come up with a two-stroke. However. the simulated and measured data showed around 80 bar in-cylinder pressure was developed inside the combustion chamber and 1200KJ/se rate of heat release was observed. This will help to minimize the air pollutions. it has been investigated that the engine has high cycle to cycle variation in the combustion process. 395 . whereas most of the literatures primarily deal with the general descriptive of the engines and reported some experimental works [14-19]. contrary. 1. such as. The result showed that higher compressor pressure ratio resulted in better compact and efficient system. Newton’s second law was applied for extraction of the resultant force versus piston position so that the integration of resulting equation yields the piston velocity and further integration results in piston position. The combustion in the free-piston engine was assumed to proceed at constant volume and the exhaust pressure is assumed to be uniform and equal to the inlet pressure to the engine. WVU researchers developed a fundamental and numerical analysis of free-piston linear generator engine and presented in several published papers. the power generated can be transmitted either through wires to the motors or connected to the wheels with a hydraulic coupling to drive the vehicle. such as.The linear generator project at UTP Free-piston linear electrical generator engine was developed in Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) in collaboration with Univesity of Malaya (UM) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) for being environmental friendly and using as a power generation unit to charge battery banks on-board for hybrid electric vehicle [31. Bobrowsky [10] broadened the analytical analysis of freepiston gas generator by examining off-design operation of the free-piston engine. The unrestricted motion of the piston in freepiston engine resolved the challenges of obtaining variable compression ratio and stroke length that helps the engine to operate on almost any fuel without any major modification on the parts of the engine. introducing minimum geometry concept and defining fields of operations. 32]. a few papers presented the fundamental mathematical models and analyzed the engines [10-13]. namely. in Free-piston engine. Furthermore. hydraulic free-piston engine and free-piston linear generator engine. free-piston gas generator and a combination of the two. He tried to look into the possibility of designing a unit to perform at some desired operating point and the performance of the engine at off-design operating point. constructed and tested in Tampere University of Technology at the Institute of Hydraulics and Automation. evaluating stability of the engine. For modern free-piston engine. a number of papers deal with the mathematical model and simulation of the engine [1. in which commercial GT-Power software was used for one-dimensional analysi. free-piston air compressor. [23] using zerodimensional and one-dimensional model. instead he employed dimensionless analysis since the result obtained may be scaled as required. Performance analysis for hydraulic free-piston engine was developed and presented by Larmi et al.International Journal of Engineering and Physical Sciences 6 2012 utilized in vehicles. It was noted that affinity relations was not used in the analysis for scaling up or down the engine. respectively. they looked into the influence of compressor pressure ratio on the gas-generator output. It requires developing a complex control system for monitoring the dynamic motion of the piston. Furthermore. Hence. It was reported that the test engine could run only for very short periods [29]. After several developments of free-piston engine configurations. The study indicated that the free-piston system has better thermodynamic performance than the conventional engine. Reported works on free-piston engine For early free-piston engines. The simulated data was compared with the measured data from the prototype of the engine that was designed. It is worth to mention the numerical investigation and experimental work performed for a free-piston linear generator engine by WVU and Sandia National Laboratory researchers. However. linear engine type with dual piston assembly that is placed between two oppositely placed combustion chambers as shown in Fig. They presented the full cycle study for the early free-piston engine types. this feature of the engine poses a main challenge to the engine. mass and heat input. 2026]. Both. C. Nandkumar [28] and Houdyschell [27] developed a fundamental and basic mathematical model for two-stroke spark ignited and diesel engine. Similarly. In a similar paper. He solved the model numerically to provide incylinder pressure profiles and several other operational characteristics of the engine as a function of time. it was observed that the power output of the engine was 11KW at the operating frequency of 28 Hz and compression ratio of 16:1. it is clear that the feasibility of the free-piston engine will greatly depends on the design of sophisticated control system and it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss with the control problems and solutions for free-piston. Nandkumar solved the model and investigated the behaviour of the linear engine for different stroke-to-bore (L/b) ratios and under different air-to-fuel ratios. with few of them reporting some experimental results from the developed prototype [27-29] London and Oppenheim [12] developed the thermodynamic-dynamic model that represented the freepiston engine to study the design aspects of free-piston engine relative to the conventional crank-type reciprocating internal combustion engine system. D. Furthermore. Houdyschell studied the behavior of the engine for various bore.

hence. direct injection. the cylinder content was a homogeneous charge of ideal gas (Refer to (2)). the amount of current flowing into the coil and the corresponding piston linear displacement data for both cylinders was gathered. The engine can be fuelled with compressed natural gas (CNG) and hydrogen. The main specifications of the test engine and a photo of the engine setup are shown in Table 1 and Fig. Hence. The injected current allows the piston to move from the bottom dead center to the top dead center for the left cylinder. which has a specification of 76mm bore. Experimental setup The experiment was performed on a two-stroke. For starting the engine. one can refer the detail of the development of the dynamic and thermodynamic analysis for free-piston engine in reference [33]. In the same time. 2 respectively. a single-zone model was developed by applying the first law of thermodynamics to the combustion chamber. The linear generator acts like a generator when the linear motion of the translator assembly reciprocates between two combustion chambers to produce electricity and can also acts like a motor when the current is injected to the alternator’s coil from the battery supply for starting the engine. Assuming the piston is moving from the left side to the right. the pressure develops in the left combustion cylinder by transferring the energy from the moving piston to the charges during the compression process. In the experimental work. Newton’s second law was applied. as shown in the Fig. assuming the piston moves from the right to the left. such as cogging ( Fcog (t ) ).7mm nominal stoke length and 313cc/cycle engine capacity. maximum five standard 12-volt automotive batteries could only be used due to the limitation of the MOSFET driver used in the experiment and the motoring was done without combustion [34]. Fuel is injected and ignited when the piston arrives near the top dead center. The linear generator was mounted at the center of the piston assembly and consists of stator coil. Cylinder Block Engine Mounting dp p dV (γ − 1) dQn = −γ + dt V dt V dt (2) Fig. some of the energy is absorbed by a linear electric motor to generate current. For dynamic analysis. motoring ( Fmot (t ) ). and friction forces ( f ). Scavenging is controlled by the movement of the pistons. acting on the piston assembly (Refer to (1)). II. the right cylinder undergoes compression process and when it reaches around top dead center. The expansion process occurs in the left cylinder when the pistons moves back to the bottom dead center by converting thermal energy of the combustion products to kinetic energy of the piston. The model was implemented in Simulink/Matlab environment and analyzed. 1 UTP two-stroke. Mathematical model The dynamic and thermodynamic model of the free-piston engine linear generator is developed to investigate the characteristics of the engine and the combustion process of free-piston linear generator engine. 2 Experimental setup of UTP free-piston linear generator engine and data acquisition system 396 . Using data acquisition system. the fuel is injected in the right cylinder and combustion will occur and the piston will accelerate to the left and the cycle repeats. An electrical power was supplied from the standard 12-Volt automotive battery bank to the engine through the alternator’s coils for motoring the engine. the dynamic model of the free-piston linear generator engine is given us: B. During the expansion process. 1. three phase tubular permanent magnet and translator shaft that are connected to the two pistons of each cylinder. 36. Fig. the current is injected from the bank of three standard 12-volt automotive batteries connected in series to the alternator’s coil.International Journal of Engineering and Physical Sciences 6 2012 Translator shaft Piston Permanent Magnets & Back Iron Scavenging chamber Cylinder Head ∑F x = 1 ( Fc (t ) + Fmot (t ) − Fcog (t ) − f ) m (1) For thermodynamic analysis. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY A. free-piston linear generator engine prototype The working principle of the engine is that a cycle starts with the piston assembly at the bottom dead center at the left cylinder. cylinder pressure. supposing that mass cannot enter and leave the cylinder through the intake and exhaust system. UTP free-piston linear generator engine that consists of dual piston that was placed between two opposite combustion chamber. since the motion of the piston assembly of the engine is governed by the gas pressure developed in the left and right cylinders due to the combustion process ( Fc (t ) ) and by the balance of forces.

III.5 2 1. Effect of voltage applied The effect of voltage applied for motoring the engine was studied to determine the voltage required to start the engine and to achieve stable operation.9 1 Using 36V Using 60V The data was logged at 0. 3 Experimental result of displacement versus time for free-piston linear engine for various applied voltage 397 .02 -10 -0. Both simulation and experimental work were performed by varying the applied voltage during start-up.7 0. higher engine frequency (345cpm vs 240cpm) and in-cylinder pressure (4. The full stroke length could be obtained when 96V and above were applied in the simulation.1 0. The frequency and acceleration of the piston were lower in the case of 36V due to the lower speed of the piston.04 0.6 Time [se] 0.15 Fig.8 0. The collected experimental data was post-processed by using MATLAB software.5 5 4.8 0. 4 Experimental result of pressure versus time for various applied voltage In the simulation.025 0.125mm linear displacement resolution and a maximum of 75 consecutive engine cycles could be recorded for different engine operating scenario using developed LABVIEW program. 5 and 6 respectively. The detail result of the experiment is presented in the subsequent sub-sections.1 0. 5 Simulation result of piston displacement versus time for various applied voltage Fig.9 1 0.5 3 2.4 0. The variation of piston displacement and acceleration with time for 36.5 4 Pressure [bar] 3.1 0.023bar) were observed in the case of 60 volts. 0.International Journal of Engineering and Physical Sciences 6 2012 TABLE I SPECIFICATION OF THE TEST ENGINE Parameters Cylinder bore Nominal stroke Engine Capacity Moving mass Nominal Compression Ratio Specification 76mm 34. RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS A.075 Time [se] 0. Fig. the current was applied for motoring the engine until the piston reached ignition position and then combustion was initiated.03 0.5 0.2 0. However.5 0 0. The simulation was performed by applying 36.03 -20 -0.04 0 0. 3 and 4 show the piston motion with no combustion. The result indicates that the piston stopped short of full amplitude using a 36V as compared to using 60 and 144V.125 0. Three and five automotives batteries connected in series for the experiment producing voltages of 36 and 60 volts respectively.3 0.02 Displacement [m] Using 36V Using 60V Using 144V 30 20 Displacement [mm] 10 0 Using 36V Using 60V 0.7 0. 96 and 144 voltes for motoring of the engine. It was observed that the cycle-tocycle variation was not prevalent for motoring the engine without combustion for both cases. 60 and 144V are depicted in Fig.6 Time [se] 0.3 0. 60.01 -0.01 0 -0.5 1 0.5mm 313cc/cycle 6kg 14:1 5.5 0.95bar vs 4.2 0.4 0. 40 Fig.05 -30 -40 0 0.

32.5 -4 x 10 Fig.347 bar and the maximum rate of heat release were 40.005 0.831.20 and 32. 35 30 25 Pressure [bar] 20 15 10 5 0 Using 36V Using 60V Using 96V Using 144V The rate of heat release and cumulative indicated mean effective pressure (IMEP) were determined for different applied voltage in simulation and plotted in Fig.996 bar. the higher the pressure developed in the combustion cylinder.e the higher the used current. 60.01 0.025 0.975.067. 8 Simulated in-cylinder pressure versus volume for various applied voltage Fig.015 0.03 0.05 0.25 2.03 0. 96 and 144V were 22. 7 and 9.015 0.02 0. 80 70 Rate of heat release [KJ/se] 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 -10 -20 0 0. The variation of in-cylinder pressure with volume for different applied voltage is portrayed in Fig.005 0. 9 Simulation result of rate of heat release versus time for various applied voltage 398 .035 Fig.03 0. higher rate of compression pressure and shorter combustion duration were achieved as shown in Fig. 7 Simulation result of pressure versus time of free-piston linear engine for various applied voltage Fig.04 Using 36V Using 60V Using 96V Using 144V 0 0. 6 Simulation result of piston acceleration versus time for various applied voltage Fig.025 Time [se] 0. Further analysis indicated that as the applied voltage were increased.09 2 35 Using 36V Using 60V Using 144V 30 25 Pressure [bar] 20 15 10 5 0 Using 36V Using 60V Using 144V 0 0.25 1. As it can be seen that the cumulative IMEP for the 36. 60. 7 shows the simulation result of pressure versus time applying various voltages.06 Time [se] 0. The pressure and rate of heat release profiles depicted in Fig. 1.75 2 2. 9 and 10 respectively. 0.308 and 1. Hence. The analysis revealed that higher in-cylinder pressure was developed for 96V and 144V than the other applied voltages. 25.822. 96 and 144V were 0.75 1 1.04 0.035 0.07 0.01 0.02 Time [se] 0. The maximum peak pressure obtained for 36. Confirming that higher indicated power can be extracted from higher engine frequencies as expected. 70 and 75KJ/se.25 0. i. respectively. it was observed that applying 96 and 144V developed sufficient pressure to initiate combustion and overcome misfiring.08 0.5 0. 48. respectively.5 3 Volume [m ] 1. 7 and 9 show that most of the combustion heat was released after the peak pressure around Top Dead Center (TDC). 8.International Journal of Engineering and Physical Sciences 6 2012 4000 3000 2000 Acceleration [m /s] 1000 0 -1000 -2000 -3000 -4000 0.

015 0. 12 Simulation result of pressure versus volume of for different compression ratios 6 4 Velocity [m/s ] 2 0 -2 -4 -6 -0.04 1.35 0.5 CR=29.85 Fig.08 Time [se] 0.58 CR=25. the main advantage of free-piston engine is that it allows changing the compression ratio of the engine without putting much effort in the system.02 0.1 0.59 Fig.03 0.6 3 Volume [m ] 1.03 0. If the maximum heat release occurs before TDC. it is shown that increasing the compression ratio of the engine resulted in a higher operating frequency of the engine due to the higher pressure developed in the cylinder as shown in Fig. 14 and 15.04 Full stroke CR=29.04 -0. Therefore. 399 2 .5 3 1 Cumulative IMEP [bar] 0. 11 and 12. As discussed in the above section. In a free-piston engine. 13).02 0.02 -0. lower compression ratio led to longer time delay and total heat release period.5 0. 11 shows the simulation results of displacement versus time for different compression ratios of the free-piston linear generator engine. 15.005 0.1 0.035 0 0.58 CR=25.02 0. In the simulation.1 1.35 2.21 CR=17. 13 Simulation result of velocity versus displacement for different compression ratios Fig. As shown in Fig. Effect of compression ratio Fig.21 CR=17.35 1. it is necessary that the maximum hear release should occur after TDC to increase the expansion work. 11 Simulation result of displacement versus time for different compression ratios Further analysis pointed out that increasing the compression ratio yielded higher IMEP and rate of heat release as indicated in Fig.04 0. the piston accelerates rapidly away from TDC reducing the time available for combustion and resulting in lower expansion force as there is no flywheel or crankshaft.01 Displacement [m] 0.1 2.59 Fig.5 Using 36V Using 60V Using 96V Using 144V 1 0.International Journal of Engineering and Physical Sciences 6 2012 1. higher compression ratios lead to higher engine speeds and hence the piston assembly moves faster (see Fig.6 0.06 0.01 0 -0.04 0.025 Time [se] x 10 6 2.25 CR=12.58 CR=25.5 0 0.85 2.04 0.03 -0.03 0.5 -2 -2.02 -0. higher power density of the engine can be achieved by increasing the compression ratio and resulting in higher frequency of the piston motion.5 -1 -1. 0.14 Full stroke CR=29.02 Displacement [m] 0.25 CR=12.5 0 -0.12 0. Similarly.6 -4 x 10 B.59 2 Pressure [Pa] 0.25 CR=12.01 0 0.03 -0.01 0.01 -0. 10 Simulation result of cumulative IMEP versus time for various applied voltage 1.21 CR=17.

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